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Ethel Smyth

  • ... we buried her ... this mother with whom I fought so desperately, whom I loved so dearly, and of whose presence I grow daily more and more conscious ...

  • I loved dancing with a delirious 'I wish I could die' passion, especially when the music appealed to me ... but alas! only one in ten partners had any notion of time, and what made it worse, the nine were always behind, never before the beat. ... Sometimes I would firmly seize smaller, lighter partners by the scruff of the neck, so to speak, and whirl them along in the way they should go, but I saw they were not enjoying themselves, and oddly enough I wanted these wretches to like dancing with me.

  • I have often noticed that when Fate has a phenomenal run of ill luck in store for you, she begins by dropping a rare piece of good fortune into your lap, thereby enhancing the artistic effect of the sequel.

  • You had to finesse to get her opinion, but any amount of trouble was worth the deadly hitting on the nail that followed.

  • As the great Brahms recently proclaimed: / 'A clever woman is a thing of naught!' / So let us diligently cultivate stupidity, / That being the only quality demanded / Of a female Brahms-admirer!

  • ... when I came to know Greek art I instantly understood that excess and perfection are enemies; yet on the other hand this world and the millions of worlds around us live by fire ... !

  • ... that happiest epoch of an artist's life, the spell of hard, hope-ridden work which lies betwen self-dedication and the endeavor to capture the interests of an indifferent world ...

  • ... her secret feeling was, I expect, that of many anti-suffragist women I have known, who, for some reason or other on the pinnacle of man's favor themselves, had no objection to the rest of womenkind being held in contempt.

  • ... I can imagine nothing more tiresome than always to speak of people as if they were listening at the door.

  • If a young dog strays up the aisle during church no one says anything, no one does anything, but, none the less, he soon becomes aware that something is wrong. Even so, as the distance between myself and the hearthrug diminished, did I become aware that something was very wrong indeed.

  • If some people are right, artists are put into this world not to practice their art, but to talk about it. And judging by the flattering invitations many a humble climber will receive to pontificate from the lowest rung but one of the ladder, humanity is in a dangerously receptive frame of mind, and artists a race devoid of either modesty or sense of humor.

  • ... the majority of critical, and plenty of uncritical, readers find quotations a bore.

  • People who have been much loved retain even in old age a radiating quality difficult to describe but unmistakable. Even a stone that has been blazed on all day by a southern sun will hold heat long after nightfall; and Madame de Bülow, who was far from being a stone and not yet at the close of her day, had this warm radiance.

  • The charms of seclusion are seldom combined with the conveniences of civilization.

  • ... if you take passionate interest in a subject, it is hard not to believe yourself specially equipped for it.

  • The habit some writers indulge in of perpetual quotation is one it behooves lovers of good literature to protest against, for it is an insidious habit which in the end must cloud the stream of thought, or at least check spontaneity. If it be true that le style c'est l'homme, what is likely to happen if l'homme is for ever eking out his own personality with that of some other individual?

  • No doubt other writers have often put a thing more brilliantly, more subtly than even a very cunning artist in words can hope to emulate, a supreme phrase being a bit of luck that only happens now and then. And inasmuch as the condiments and secret travail of human nature are always the same, and that certain psychological moments must ever and ever recur, what more tempting than to pin down such a moment with the blow of a borrowed hammer?

  • ... the writer must resist this temptation [to quote] and do his best with his own tools. It would be most convenient for us musicians if, arrived at a given emotional crisis in our work, we could simply stick in a few bars of Brahms or Schubert. Indeed many composers have no hesitation in so doing. But I have never heard the practice defended; possibly because that hideous symbol of petty larceny, the inverted comma, cannot well be worked into a musical score.

  • Mrs. Benson and I certainly did not belong in the same cage, but so fascinating was her mind that I could have groped about in it for ever.

  • ... acceptance is an art that must be mastered if we want to keep our friends for the span of life that remains to us, and presently step off the stage with our self-respect intact.

  • ... crawling about the floor like half-dead November flies is one thing, and dancing reels another.

  • [On golf:] ... though aware I could never be more than a humble potterer, it was impossible to repress the wild upsurgings of hope known to all middle-aged beginners ...

  • ... night after night I went to sleep murmuring, 'To-morrow I will be easy, strong, quick, supple, accurate, dashing and self-controlled all at once!' For not less than this is necessary in the Game of Life called Golf.

  • ... no one is more trustworthy than the repentant sinner who has been found out.

  • She had accomplished what according to builders is only possible to wood and stone of the very finest grain; she had weathered, as they call it, with beauty.

    • Ethel Smyth,
    • 1920, on the Empress Eugénie who died at age 95, in Christopher St. John, Ethel Smyth ()

Ethel Smyth, English composer, writer

(1858 - 1955)

Complete name: Dame Ethel Mary Smyth